Sunday, April 30, 2006

My Point, and I Do Have One...

Hi there, blog-kateers!

Y'know, I've got something like eight drafts in the hopper that I will hopefully be able to publish this week. I thought I'd do a bit of an open thread thing here in the meantime, but hang with me for second, for I intend to ramble a bit.

First off, there's a bunch of new blogs in the sidebar. Let me see, here... I joined this one list thing, American Bloggers for Inclusive Debates, which seemed like a good idea at the time. I've had issues with people who are not interested in discussing topics, but rather wanting to exist in an echo chamber, or just insist that I am some kind of jerk because of the way I think, instead of trying to engage me. I'm an open-minded guy, I'm willing to be convinced... I just don't find many people all that convincing. I'm not much of a joiner (ironically) so we'll see how it goes.

Additionally, you'll find the following: JUST CITIZENS, Sajak Says... (Pat Sajak's blog, no kidding!), OPFOR (the natural progression of the [former] Officer's Club), The Conservative Brotherhood, and the Breckner-Posner Blog - a blog by University of Chicago professors this guy and this guy which I find really fascinating.

As many of you know, if you've been here before, the Idiot Box is my nemesis. Mainly because it is a sweet siren of temptation to not do anything productive with my time. So instead of fixing my ceiling fans (I'm lucky to be alive) or my car (it's lucky to still be running), I watch the Today Show or some other mind-numbing garbage.

Now, don't get me wrong, not everything on TV is garbage, but all of it is a complete waste of time. So the shows I more or less have to plan my schedule around are Lost (four new episodes coming up! Awesome!) and Doctor Who. I catch Penn & Teller: Bullshit! when I can, and once in a while sit down and watch Jeopardy! (maybe even Wheel of Fortune, because Pat Sajak is second only to Jack Bauer in terms of conservative TV heroes) with Red. There used to be so much more, but thankfully they became stupid and boring. (Smallville, anyone?)

So, imagine my surprise when my retired mom-in-law says she watches this Deal or No Deal show and Red says, "Let's see if it's any good." I scoffed, of course. We're talking about one of these silly game shows that are the ugly cousins of reality television (and that's saying something), AND it's hosted by Howie Mandel. What, does he put a rubber glove on his head and inflate it with his nose? No, in fact, I was glued to my seat as a double-lung-transplantee picked briefcases with a system consisting of a bag of numbered ping pong balls. She walked away with $124,000, but just getting there was insanely tense. I think I might be hooked on it... at least until I get bored. Since Mom-in-law is staying with us for the next two months, I'll probably be watching it some more, anyhow.

OK, OK, so the other thing I really wanted to talk about is my extreme disappointment with the quality of leadership in our country right now. Now, as an active duty officer of the U.S. Navy, I have to watch my step here. I've expressed my disappointment with various of the Bush Administration's policies before, despite my desire to really want to appreciate everything they've done for us, particularly in terms of the Global War on Terror. I think that on certain things, like illegal immgration, size and scope of the government, Social Security, Medicare, schools, the environment... domestic issues, the Republicans have strayed from the path of reliable conservatism.

I'm experiencing a certain revulsion at my choice to vote for Sen. Mel Martinez also, due to his apparent RINOness. Perhaps you have similar feelings about your duly elected representatives. So I'm curious what you think you're going to do about it. There are two elections coming up in 2006 and 2008. Your first inclination may be that, well, the incumbent Republican is better than having a Democrat in that seat. Or vice versa. But if that incumbent is not representing your beliefs, even though he claims to, what do you do?

Personally, I have to wait and see who runs against Martinez. I have to wait and see who ends up with presidential nominations. I'm hoping that George Allen is nominated by the Republicans, because so far, I like what I see. The opposition seem to already be trying to dig up skeletons in his closet; which is good, because if they fear him, we can control them. For what it's worth, I'm willing to bet his Senate seat is secure for the time being, which will be good as a political lily pad. I hope his constituents don't suffer as a result of his aspirations, as so many Americans seem to when their representatives run for higher office.

So, if you got this far let me what you think you're going to do, because I sure haven't figured it out yet.

EDIT: By the way, you, over there in Arizona! This is why you must vote against the Honorable Senator John S. McCain. (THFT: Atlas Blogged) He is a bloody socialist. Just because these jokers have a certain letter after their name doesn't mean their going to think like you think they will think. Evaluate candidates on his or her merits, not his or her political party.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Spanking Time!

I was just talking to my mother-in-law about a certain set of parents who don't believe in spanking their children. I told her those parents need to learn to abuse their kids. Or maybe they'd prefer to have a kid like this little snot: Marissa Leigh.

Veruca Salt, here, thinks she's some kind of pop star goddess. She's an awful litte person who got her hundred-thousand-dollar (my estimate, based on the story) birthday party put on MTV where they harvested these scintillating quotes:
"I'm a princess."

"I'm such a rock star that I can do this."

"So many people are so jealous of me because my dad owns three car dealerships and we have a lot of money."

"I always get exactly what I want."
This kid could definitely benefit from a bit of measured violence. And parents who aren't trying to exploit her. In my opinion, the above is child abuse. She's going to grow into a miserable, soulless person wondering what happened to her shattered dreams as she takes your order at Taco Bell.

Oh, I know, I shouldn't joke about domestic violence, but there's a big difference between that and discipline. I've seen worse kids than these, but they walk all over their parents. The worst part about it is that Grandpa (Dad's dad) slapped one of them for being a little monster and Mom threw the grandparents out. Permanently.

My thoughts on this are two-fold. Mom and Dad were wrong for not executing proper discipline in the first place. Grandpa shouldn't have had to do it for them; I can't blame a man who grew up in an era where getting one's hide tanned was a fact of life when he did something worthy of it. He's dealing with people who think that time-outs and stern words are going to teach their kids the consequences of their actions.

On the other hand, if I was that kid's parent, I wouldn't want other people disciplining my kids for me. Once Red was at my grandmother's house and Grandma demanded that my daughter, Kiddo, say "please" before she could get a glass of milk. Red is still steamed about that, she's Kiddo's stepmom and was there in the parenting role, after all. I wasn't particularly happy about it either, I don't want other people parenting my kids, even my family, but I have little choice since she doesn't live with me.

As I am mere days away from the birth of my second child, I think about what kind of man I want him to be and how I'm going to help him become that man. I suppose I could name him "Sue"... but I'll probably just try to teach him my principles show him right from wrong and give him a little smack on the ass once in a while if he earns it.

Dig

Drudge (and now other media outlets) report that Rush Limbaugh has reached a plea agreement with the Florida state attorney's office. I think that's good for him, but it's not going to stop people trying to demonize him. I think he has handled the situation commendably (better than other celebrities with legal proceedings against them).

In the first journalism class I ever took, my told us the primary rule of journalism is, "Dig." Also, if you don't know how news stories are structured, they are built entirely around the fact that your attention span is too short to reach the end of the story. So they put the "lead" up front; the first paragraph in which you should be able to find out everything you need to know about whatever is under the headline (for a hard news story) or to convince you to read more (for a feature). The rest of the information should progressively get less important, so if you want to know the background of a story, you usually have to a bit of digging yourself Even the placement of a story on the page is based solely on you, dear reader, and how you scan a page of newspaper.

I think the Associated Press thought they'd reached China with the final paragraph of the above link, but snuck it in at the bottom so it could simultaneously feed the moonbats and not get a lot of attention:
Limbaugh reported five years ago that he had lost most of his hearing because of an autoimmune inner-ear disease. He had surgery to have an electronic device placed in his skull to restore his hearing. But research shows that abusing opiate-based painkillers also can cause profound hearing loss.
They're just sayin'... y'know?

It doesn't really matter if Rush lost his hearing to the drugs or not, he's already admitted to being addicted to painkillers. Just about anybody on painkillers has a fair-to-middlin' chance of getting addicted to them. I had some after a bit of surgery once. I took one pill and was high all day long - completely useless at work. I never took another one. I think Rush's addiction is certainly a humbling experience for him, but I don't think it makes him a hypocrite, despite the AP and MSNBC's (and the rest of the "drive-by media" as Rush likes to say) attmpts to paint him as such.

Anyway, I wish Rush luck on the road to recovery and would like to thank him and Tom Harkin and an anonymous donor for my free Adopt-A-Soldier Rush 24/7 Subscription.

UPDATE: More at The Radio Equalizer: IT'S RUSH-BASH 2006!
I was watching the "news" on NBC's Saturday edition of "the Today Show" (not by design, Red just had it on) and they completely left out the part about this all being part of Rush's plea deal and that he is not guitly. Surprised? Didn' t think so.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What You Don't Know Hurts Everybody

Y'know I linked this at the bottom of my previous rant about oil prices, but I figured I'd post it again for the short of attention span.

Cato Institute fellows always say it better than I can.

Peter Van Doren and Jerry Taylor at the Cato Institute - Exxon's Earnings: No Apology Necessary (THFT: Glen Dean)

Oh, and today's Thomas Sowell column at Town Hall is worth reading as well. It's good to see the Conservative blogosqhere trying to show people the truth, especially since our duly elected representives seem too ignorant to see it.

Plus, Crazy P's got another good one.
EDIT: ... and Steven Milloy: 'Green' Politicians Add to Gas Price Woes

Me? Mom-in-law is here, baby's on the way, and I've got a test coming up. Just got done in the live firefighting trainer this morning and so I'm a bit tired and thirsty. Time for beer!

Previous:
Rocket Surgery
The Real Gouge
Unquestioning Belief In Works Of Fiction
Obscene Profits

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rocket Surgery

So yeah, before I tell you was I was going to say, Michelle Malkin emailed and said, "Wassup, Robo?" and I'm all, "Hey baby... how you doin'?" And she's all, "Dude, I've got a videoblog now, it's totally the wave of the future." And I'm like, "That's cool." So I've got my first videoblog in my sidebar: Hot Air. That was a good idea.

Now for something completely different...

For the record, I started this post right after St. Patrick's Day, wanting to get this frustration about lack of truth in the nature of economics with respect to oil and gasoline prices out of my system. And now I feel like Harry Morgan in the Twilight Zone episode, "The Curious Case of Edgar Witherspoon", where Morgan's character must collect junk and arrange it precariously in his basement apartment in order to keep the world in balance. But I digress.

So I didn't blog about Sparky's abyssmal, yet completely and consistently liberal, idea about mucking with the gas price and now things are getting out of hand. As I resist the urge to point out the obvious biases in the Reuters lead, I force myself to stick to the issue at hand and point out that President Bush "called for an end to tax breaks for Big Oil and suspended putting oil into the U.S. emergency stockpile." Through gritted teeth, I calmly point out that continued demonizing of oil companies may make the average nasal-spelunking voter feel better, but does nothing to solve the problem. Not that the government's concerned about solving problems.

The President also gave the Environmental Protection Agency authority to suspend federal clean-burning gasoline rules this summer that are forcing consumers to buy expensive new gasoline blends. Which, I suppose, if it tells us anything, tells us the impact of excessive restrictions on oil refining and gasoline usage have on the marketplace. And that the government knows it, but does it anyway. Your tax dollars at work.

Back in March, my good pal Sparky told me he thought (and would write in a paper for an economics class) that the solution to all this high gas price nonsense is even higher gas prices. Ballsy. Stupid, but ballsy. His solution would be to artificially hike gas prices to the point where an alternative must be found, or something like an oil crash happens and the world ends. How's that for brinksmanship? Wasn't I just pining for my post-apocalyptic nightmare society? Be careful what you ask for, I guess.

I've discussed the way oil prices work in general before, so I intend to carry on that discussion in these interesting times. I refer to that post with respect this malarkey about investigating the oil companies for making obscene profits. The one really raking it in is Uncle Sam (Hannity and Paul W. Smith were talking about this particular fact today, too). Oh, and these two. Share and enjoy.

Anyway, Sparky believes, without any proof that I know of (please, Sparky, if you're reading let me know whether I'm misrepresenting your ideas and correct me), that at some some price, the demand for oil will fall to zero and people will use alternative fuels, pollute less, drive their SUV's less and create a shiny, happy, liberal utopia where all of your income goes to the government so that it can provide everything you need. Or something like that.

Reality is liberalism's (nay! Communism's) best antidote. Oil is one of those funny products whose demand is inelastic. Now, this can certainly change over time, but due to the lack of acceptible substitutes, demand for oil in America remains pretty much the same regardless of price. Once the automobile really caught on, the country was built up around the fact that folks liked to drive. We are even more dependent upon the automobile now because of the way infrastructure has been built. So demand = inelastic. Pay attention, this will be on the test.

Interestingly, due to excessive government interference in the industry, oil supply is also inelastic. Oil companies have built no new refineries and are not allowed to explore for new oil in our own Exclusive Economic Zone, resulting in Communist uptopias taking advantage of the evil U.S.'s crippling bureaucracy. So, though there is plenty of oil, it is extremely difficult to extract it due to the lies the environmental lobby and your government tell you. Additionally, even without these restrictions, the barriers to entry in the oil industry are mind-boggling, mostly due to the huge investment in fixed assets required to get it out of the ground.

This inelasticity of supply is the reason gas prices go berserk when hurricanes hit or when Iran starts sabre-rattling - any interruption in supply that is so precariously balanced with demand will seriously disrupt the market.

So, with inelastic supply and inelastic demand, you have a basic supply-demand curve that looks something like this one. I would even suggest that the curves are more vertical (inelastic) than I have them represented here. Pe is your equillibrium price. Natural shifts in supply and demand curves occur as the market reacts to external pressures. The factors that can change demand, for example (according to "Economics", Roger A. Arnold, 6th ed.) are income, preferences, prices of related goods, number of buyers and expectations of future price.

As America has become more and more prosperous, our incomes have increased, most people prefer to drive cars (and own more than one) and more people live in America and drive than in the past and demand of oil has increased. People expect the price of oil to continue rising and buy it now, hence increasing current demand for it; which is why the President wants to stop filling the strategic reserves. However, since these are long-term changes in demand, short-term Band-Aids will not fix the problem.

So the demand curve shifts over time. Notice that since the curves are inelastic, quantity demanded doesn't significantly change as price increases. Therefore any increases in price will go to the oil companies who will reinvest and profit (since they make a percentage), and to your old Uncle Sam (who takes more off the top than the oil companies get and that's just at the pump, never mind every step of the supply chain).

So over time, the demand curve shift rightward increases prices, but the increase doesn't discourage people from buying oil. What about supply? The supply curve will shift based on prices of relevant resources (refining costs?), technology(refining, new fuels), number of sellers (there's those pesky barriers to entry I was talking about), expectations of future price (may cause hoarding, or increased production, depending on expectations), taxes and subsidies (generally, we get more of what we subsidize and less of what we tax) and government restrictions.

Pop quiz: Panic and investigation and stopping oil buying and oh my god! What do you suppose will happen to supply? It is clear the President or someone in the Administration has a basic understanding of economics, even if the Administration's actions come far too late, are far too temporary and far too likely to cause marketplace panic or at least shortness of breath. Legisaltiors must have similar knowledge; all I had to do was crack open an undergrad economics textbook to refresh my memory. So what the hell are these people thinking?

Oh, right. They're thinking about elections.

How about Sparky's idea of imposing a price ceiling? Well, a price ceiling imposes a surplus upon suppliers. Envision a shift to P1 without associated changes in supply or demand. Suppliers will want to decrease price to sell their inventory, but can't because of government controls. as a result, they'll be forced to cut back on production. Sounds great, eh? Less oil to sell means less oil to use and forced seeking of alternative sources. Oh, and destruction of the economy. I guess you have to give a little to get a little.

Additionally, Sparky suggests that the increased tax revenue be used to develop alternatives and fund super-wham-a-dyne social programs and the like. Problem #1: decrease buying = decreased tax revenue. Problem #2: That idea presupposes goverment is financially disciplined and has only your best interests at heart.

*snork*

Ahem.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Additional rants:
Democrats in Congress promptly introduced an "energy bill" that would put an additional 25-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline to stop "global warming," an atmospheric phenomenon supposedly aggravated by frivolous human activities such as commerce, travel and food production.
Previous:
The Real Gouge
Unquestioning Belief In Works Of Fiction
Obscene Profits

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Environmental Hysteria: Happy Belated Earth Day


Apparently it was Earth Day this weekend. Naturally, there is a plethora of stories about what horrible shape the planet is in and schoolchildren being indoctrinated into believing that the world as they know it will essentially end in their lifetime; just as I was taught when I was in school. Take a look as the essays some of these Arkansas teens have written.

Anecdotally speaking, I remember growing up with this stuff since the 1980's, thinking that after 2000 I'd be living in some weird, post-apocalpytic, Mad Max-style nightmare. Doesn't anyone remember Star Trek IV: Save the Whales? What about Men at Work, Fern Gully, Waterworld? Captain Planet? Tank Girl? Seaquest DSV*? Superman IV is on par with these, but was about nuclear proliferation. I did like how it showed us not to get rid of nuclear weapons by throwing them all into the sun because Lex Luthor might use the huge explosion to create a supervillain; but I digress. So many movies, TV shows and cartoons that I saw when I was a kid were about People Killing the Planet. Now I'm 30 and I'm still waiting for my dune buggy. These kids will be, too.

Thirty seems to be a magic number for environmetal science, however, because when thirty years of data has built up, it seems there is no alarming trend. The Earth may be warming, but does so steadily, by fractions of degrees. Most of the panic about climate change is usually over weather. But, we've talked about this before, haven't we? All the computer models predict the end of the world, but the computer models can't possibly recreate exactly what's happening in the environment when we ourselves don't understand it. Complex systems, man.

It seems like the only folks that remembered Earth Day this year are the people who know that people who observe Earth Day are full of crap, the National Anxiety Center, for example has a deluge of unlinked, but verifiable, information. Additionally, Junk Science debunker Stephen Milloy had a good piece in his FoxNews.com column. Al Gore is still playing environmental Nostradamus, but we're on to him.

I thought the most interesting bit of info I got over the weekend was from Steven Hayward and his Index of Leading Environmental Indicators (available in either HTML or PDF). I'm still going through it, but it seems well-researched and he and his team have been putting this information together for the last eleven years. Previous Indexes are also available online if you search "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators".

Previous environmental hysteria:
Environmental Hysteria: Ocean-front Property in Worcester
People Covered in Fish: Environmental Hysteria: Moral Vanity
Environmental Hysteria: When Scientists Attack
It's Not Easy Being Green
Unnatural Selection
This Is All Your Fault
And I Still Can't Get My Feet Warm
Jumping GOP On A Pogo Stick!!
Unquestioning Belief In Works Of Fiction

*Worst. TV. Show. Ever.
I defy you to name a worse one.
Besides Full House.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Even Better Than Chuck Norris!

Though I don't really watch 24, I understand the appeal - and I love this stuff (THFT: Stop the ACLU):

Further, a list has been compiled delienating the Top 10 changes that this new “Era of Bauer” would bring to the White House Press Corps.

(10) Positive stories about Bush increase 145% in his first hour alone.
(9) Five moles weeded out of press corps by Bauer.
(8) Ask a stupid question; get hooked up to the sensory deprivation device.
(7) Podium replaced with bullet-proof barrier with gun ports.
(6) All press conferences last an hour, with all tough questions coming at 45 minutes past the hour.
(5) By the end of a press conference, a minimum of 34 people would have been killed.
(4) “No comment” replaced by “We don’t have time for that question”.
(3) Gary Bauer mistakenly showed up to a press conference, once.
(2) All comments will be yelled.
(1) Blogs4Bauer starts to live-blogs press conferences.


Now, if only Jack Ryan were President...

UPDATE (25 APR 06): As if you haven't noticed, I don't really care. But still... (THFT: RightWinged)

Now That's What I Call a Sticky Situation

You know, I was browsing a few of the recently updated blogs on my blogroll, and I came across a funny story on RightWinged, which reminded me of a story of my own.

My first thought about Ben & Jerry's Black & Tan flavored ice cream was: "Mmm, beer..."

My second thought was Red's run-in with them in late 2004.

You know what's fun is using Ben & Jerry's hippie sensibilities against them. One day, Red and a friend of hers walked into the local Ben & Jerry's downtown on Thames St. where the staff were discussing a beached whale Brenton Point, at the entrance to Newport harbor. One particularly enthusiastic employee was saying that he was going to go out and kill the whale, "How much bubble gum can you make from a whale?" he asked my wife, a veterinary technician and animal lover. She was so offended that she couldn't say a thing to the kid. Like it would've mattered, he was clearly an idiot.

So she comes home and relates the tale to me and how frustrated and angry she was. I, knowing of Ben & Jerry's advertised hyper-liberal sensibilities, have an "a-ha".

"Let's email the company and tell them what happened, maybe they'll fire him."

"No, I don't want to..." she said, never one to seek confrontation.

"Oh, c'mon, let me do it, just to see what they do."

They eventually replied with an apology and a promise to look into them matter along with coupons for free ice cream!

So the moral of this story is to use liberalism against the liberals and get free ice cream!

Fragmentation

Did you know that there are 22 different people running for mayor of New Orleans? How did something so interesting escape the attention of the national media until just now? Or have I been too wrapped up in myself to notice?

In the meantime, a public service announcement: Never place any body part into moving machinery, kids!

Disinhibition

This week, Daniel Hanninger discovers the disinhibitive nature of the Inter-webs. I find it amusing when folks in the mainstream press, even a good publication like the Wall Street Journal, discover the online world. Henninger, at least, has moved beyond the typical "Hey, there's these things called 'blogs'" story and tried to take a look at the effect of blogging on people's behavior.

Other folks have been onto the impact of anonymity on disinhibitive behavior through computer-mediated communication for quite some time. The concept is summed up rather nicely here. Essentially, people do and say anything they like to and about people they don't know
because they perceive themselves as "anonymous". They can dissociate themselves from that behavior because it happens online and they are "someone else" online.

I've taken advantage of that quality of online interaction before, but it grows tiresome for me. I suppose once you've been online long enough, you just want to be you. "Robosquirrel" stuck with me as an online hadle, but I have no problem with letting people know who I really am. Still, I can have an engaging discussion with people I disagree with without anyone getting upset or taking things personally. But I try to treat people as though I am looking right at them and not say anything I wouldn't say to their face. Not one thing I've ever posted on this blog is something I never talked to anyone about in person.

Other people like to use the disinhibitive nature of Internet anonymity to say whatever they like about people, especially things they'd never ever say in real life, at least not to someone's face. If someone disagrees with me, I'd like them to just say it to me, not link me up and accuse me of being sexist. Especially since I couldn't care less what random anonymous person on the Internet thinks of me, but my curiosity is piqued as to why 1) anyone would think I'm sexist and 2) why you wouldn't have the balls to just tell me you disagree with me and have a discussion. It's not like you have to look me in the eye or anything.

Through the miracles of modern technology, I found the link and asked the blogger what it was about my post she thought made me sexist, and that my understanding that sexism is the belief that one thinks the opposite sex is inferior. One of the frequent commenters replied:
"i love how racism is reduced to thinking blacks are inferior and sexism is reduced to thinking women are inferior.

dude! try to keep up!"
Reduced? That's what sexism is. I don't see the discussion going anywhere, since I've responded and been ignored - some people aren't fans of talking to people they disagree with. However, I am amused by the fact that folks feel like they can use words to mean whatever they want them to mean. Should I take being called sexist as a complement, of is it much worse than I originally thought? How could I know, if anybody can make any word mean whatever they want it to mean?

I could extrapolate from that comment that since sexism "means" much more than what it actually means, then she must be leaning toward calling me a misogynist, which couldn't be further from the truth, but how would I know without making equally rash assumptions about the feminists whose fleeting attention I attracted?

I really enjoy people coming by here with differing points of view and having conversations without going insane.

Red is trying to make me get a manicure now. I have to talk some sense into her.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tue... Thursday Trivia!

I know, not much substance these days. But if you can't have substance, at least you can have fun. I'm working on a stack of flash cards right now, they're already an inch thick and I've still got a week and a half before the next test.

If you're looking for subtance please read Iraq the Model's last post. They've lost a member of their family to the terrorists in Iraq, but Mohammed's post about their loss really reminds me why America's leadership in the world is important and who the real heroes are. (TFHT: Michael Yon)

Anyway, last week's answers:
Q: What was the first movie ever released on DVD?
A: Twister (1996)
Game over, man! Game over!

Q: What movie did I refence in the bold yellow comment above, and what was the name of the lead actor's latest album?
A: I'm glad I'm not the only one who digs "Weird Al" Yankovic and his cult hit, "UHF"! Tony, writer of the interesting RollingDoughnut.com, is working hard to out-geek me. Tony asked if he gets anything special... sure! If you think a being blogrolled is special.

And the bonus:
Q: What is the speed of light in furlongs per fortnight?
A: About 1802617499827.2 furlongs per fortnight, good work, Crazy P!

This week's Questions:
Q: How long is a "rod"? In what context is this unit of measurement used?
Q: By what pseudonym is actor Bob Einstein better known? On what TV show did he become famous?
Q: Only two U.S. Navy ships currently in commision have fought and sunk other ships. Which two are they?

Tune in tomorrow, I think I'm going to have to get a couple of things off my chest.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Hi there! I'm just about recovered from birthday nonsense, thanks for the well-wishes, all.

You know I had this weird idea about live-blogging my son's birth... I think that probably wouldn't go over too well with Red, certainly not toward the end; though I might get away with it during the down time. I've got to have the computer with anyway, since all the info for my Prospective Engineer Officer course is on CD-ROM, and I'll have to keep up while on "paternity leave"

I've had my head out of the blogosphere a bit the past couple of weeks (distracted by engineering, baby-birthing and house-buying, and various and sundry other things); mainly because I haven't found a whole lot of things that are going on vexing enough to post about while my attention is elsewhere.

However, something caught my attention today, because I wrote about this fellow once already.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is part of the Problem. What he cares most about is his power to spend taxpayer's hard-earned and legally stolen cash on just about anything he damn well pleases. The Wall Street Journal and Boddington at RedState single out Rep. Lewis, and rightly so, but there's plenty of blame to go around. Most conservatives seem to be dissatisfied that their duly elected representatives are behaving like... well, Democrats. I know how it feels, I voted for Republican Mel Martinez and he's been a massive disappointment from the get-go. I'm on his mailing list, but I can't read it most of the time because he's just finding new ways to piss me off.

Anyway, good articles, check 'em out, I'm interested to hear your comments and whether you think the new Democrat Party Platform plank about ending the "Republican Culture of Corruption" has any merit. I don't think it has anything to do with criminal behavior, as Democrats intend their snappy new marketing slogan, but that it has more to do with incumbency and power than to which party the politician belongs. I apologize for the incomplete thought's/analysis, but Red reminds me that I have to get back to studying (test on Tuesday, after all). This engineering course is making warrant officers with 20 years in the Navy feel stupid, so I've got my work cut out for me.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

11110






...-- -----

1E

dreißig

三十路

みそじ

Red asked me tonight what I wanted to do for my birthday. She's going to cook me dinner, she said. That'll be nice.

Really, it's just a number that ends in zero. No big deal. My gray hair is multiplying like tribbles, but this was anticipated. Most men in my family are gray by th... thirty. Or so.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tuesday Trivia

Hi there! Got my hands full as always, especially if you've been following the circumcision conversation below. I am spending my evening learning more than I ever wanted to know about alternating current motors and motor controllers, and will hopefully get dug in to fluid mechanics before I lose consciousness.

Meanwhile, for those of you with nothing better to do, it's Tuesday Trivia! Right answers get you linkage and perhaps a special prize, if it amuses me. Wrong answers get you nothing! Absolutely nothing! STUPID! You're so STU-PIIIIIIIIIIID!

Q: Where was Thomas Edison's laboratory?
A: Menlo Park, NJ... Patrick was close. Sort of.

Q: What is the area of a hockey rink between the blue lines and the goal lines called?
A: The end zone

Try your hand at these!
Q: What was the first movie ever released on DVD?
Q: What movie did I refence in the bold yellow comment above, and what was the name of the lead actor's latest album?

Bonus!
Q: What is the speed of light in furlongs per fortnight?

EDIT: I'd also like to share that I had popcorn for dinner tonight. Because I can. That would make a great name for a band, "Popcorn for Dinner." It's got a ring to it, doesn't it?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

USS NEW YORK (LPD-21)

(TFHT: The Officers' Club)

"NEW YORK Apr 3, 2006 (AP)— With a year to go before it even touches the water, the Navy's amphibious assault ship USS New York has already made history twice. It was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center, and it survived Hurricane Katrina."
I thought this audience would appreciate this, if you haven't heard about it already. I've known about it for a while, of course. Two of my classmates were slated to be department heads in NEW YORK before the hurricanes delayed construction.

What I wouldn't give to be a plankowner of that gorgeous warship. Since construction was delayed, it looks like I've got half a chance now.
Later ships in the class will include USS ARLINGTON, the location of the Pentagon, also struck by a hijacked jetliner on Sept. 11, and USS SOMERSET, named for the Pennsylvania county where United Flight 93 crashed after its passengers fought off hijackers apparently planning to attack another Washington target.
Never ever forget.

Operation Magic Carpet Ride

Gasp! Shock!

Say what you will about President Bush's policies, but I think he is an excellent Commander-in-Chief. The best of two I've had so far, anyhow. I would be extremely disappointed to read a headline like, "U.S. isn't really considering strike options in Iran". That the Bush administration is indeed weighing its military options against Iran should be a relief to the American public. You know, the reasonable American public that likes it when their duly elected official do what we elected them to do.

Right after the sky-is-falling headline and the doom-and-gloom lead, you get a nice to-be-sure from reporters Baker, Linzer and Ricks:
No attack appears likely in the short term, and many specialists inside and outside the U.S. government harbor serious doubts about whether an armed response would be effective. But administration officials are preparing for it as a possible option and using the threat "to convince them this is more and more serious," as a senior official put it.
I remain convinced by the conflicts of the last 40 years that effectiveness of armed response depends almost solely with civilian leadership's ability and committment to using it. The United States military is indeed the most powerful and effective in the world, but is reined in by the Constitution and rightly so.

But I digress. I chuckle to myself at the ignorance on parade in the news media every day (particularly that of copy writers). I know they're more concerned with grabbing your attention than actually telling the truth, but you should know that the U.S. regularly studies military strike options for parts of the world that cause problems. They're called OPLANs. That way, we've got a framework for an operation when things get FUBAR. I wasn't even sure I could talk about them, but then I found them online, so it's OK. I need to get orders to the command that gets to choose the names for these things.

From the sound of this article, the plans are nothing more than what Clinton ordered following the African embassy bombings and the Cole bombing. "Surgical" strikes, killing janitors... There's no way Iran won't shift into full scale tomfoolery after we lob a couple Tomahawks at them. There better be a whole plan, not just half a plan. For those not familiar with geography, Iran is just east of Iraq and just west of Afghanistan and has the capability of closing down the Straits of Hormuz and has a dedicated and fanatical military and Revolutionary Guard. Half-assing a military action with Iran will not cut it; it's going to have to be all or nothing. Which essentially means years more of diplomacy or lack thereof.

The situation there may yet be defused, but until then, like a good Boy Scout, we need to be prepared.

Some excellent insight from smarter military minds than myself at The Officer's Club.

EDIT: Incidentally, I love the photo given in the WaPo story trying to make the Iranian patrol boats look big and bad. Compare and contrast:
Old and busted
New sweet hotness

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Foreskin

Just a head's up (no pun intended), I intend to talk about penises. This is not porn. there will be one mention of my own penis, but only in passing. If penises make you uncomfortable, you should take a look at my archives or the blogs in my sidebar.

A while back, I got into this TV show called Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, one of the reasons I've maintained my subscription to showtime. It's a terrific show, tackling interesting issues from a common sense point-of-view (also a libertarian atheist point-of-view). But one issue in particular stuck with me and is causing dischord in the PCIF household.

See, Red and I are having a baby boy. Sometime before Red became with child, I saw the epsiode "Circumcision" during season 3 last year, which presented some good arguments against the practice. I wanted to know more, so I looked it up in MSN Encarta and read sociologist Edward O. Laumann's "The Circumcision Dilemma", orginally published in Scientific American. If you can get a hold of it, I highly recommend it, though I can't find any good linkage; it will open your eyes.

Generally speaking the list of resons not to is longer than the list of reasons to go ahead with it. Every pro has an equal or bigger con. I think (I hope) everyone can agree for starters that a procedure involving sharp instruments of any kind near a baby boy's penis holds considerably more risk than leaving that penis alone. It's a medically unnecessary procedure; no anesthetic is used. There is no statistically significant relationship between circumcision and cancer or urinary tract infections (depending on who you ask, of course, but I can't find anything reputable that makes that assertion). The American Association of Pediatrics has recommended against circumcising newborn boys since 1999.

The best argument against it, and what conviced me that I shouldn't do it to my son, was when they showed the "procedure". It was horrifying. I can't believe people do this to babies. There is a picture here, if you have the stomach for it: http://www.moonland.com/Rights/Pain.jpg. From the National Organization of Circumcision Resource Centers:
Most parents don’t know what is actually done to a baby when he is circumcised. The baby is placed spread-eagle on his back on a board and his arms and legs are strapped down so that he can’t move. His genitals are scrubbed and covered with antiseptic. His foreskin is torn from his glans and slit lengthwise so that the circumcision instrument can be inserted. Then his foreskin is cut off.
Some do it for religious purposes, but that doesn't make it any less barbaric. This is one of many reason I have qualms about religiosty; any person that says God needs you to cut bits off your baby is to me someone who can't be trusted.

Some advocates, like Red, also are concerned about cleanliness and aesthetics. As far as cleanliness, Red said she doesn't want to have to pull it back and wash. After all, I'm going on deployment and she shouldn't be left with that extra bit of work to do while I'm gone.

First off, that's not how you clean it (forcible retraction (.pdf file) is a bad thing, and also how circumcision begins). Second, the foreskin is a self-cleaning system. From Birthing the Future's FAQ about circumcision:
An infant's foreskin is non-retractable and should not be forcibly retracted for cleaning. It does not require any particular care. By the age of 18, most men's foreskins will have become retractable, and can be cleaned by sliding the foreskin back, rinsing with warm water, and letting the foreskin slide forward again. It is not necessary to use soap or any harsh cleansers. The intact penis is a self-cleaning organ that produces smegma (a creamy substance also produced by females, containing dead cells and immunological substances) to combat infection. See the Science Library, under "Proper penile hygiene for intact men."

Following circumcision, the penis requires careful attention and monitoring. In the absence of complications, the wound takes as long as ten days to heal. During this time, the child may have difficulty sleeping and breastfeeding. In addition, there is a risk of infection, adherence of the bandages to the wound, and abnormal healing.
Furthermore, I'm only going to be gone for five months, but circumcision is forever! She's telling me she'd inflict the unanethetised slicing off of sexually sensitive skin from my son out of convenience. Must be nice to be able to sacrifice others body parts because you don't like them very much. WebMD has a good article about caring for your young son's uncircumcised penis. It's not such a chore that it requires mutilating your baby.

And aesthetics?! You want to cut off bits of the baby because it looks better? Because you're afraid of other kids teasing him in gym class? They're the ones who are abnormal, aren't they?

Hell, when I was born, doctors just did it automatically. Parents never gave it a second thought. No, I don't remember it happening to me (thankfully), but I think we'd think twice about circumcising babies if they did remember!

Think about it, it's considered inhumane and abusive to circumcise girls. I'll grant you that female circumcision quite terrible, but it doesn't make male circumcision any less so. There is also evidence to indicate that the reason that a high percentage of women in the world have trouble reaching orgasm by vaginal stimulation alone is because the vagina is built to admit an uncircumcized penis.

Red has countered my arguements in the past with the hygiene issue. I suspect the risk is no greater than the risks of not keep the rest of the baby clean. She said that I can deal with pulling it back and cleaning and such. I said, "That's fine, if it comes to that, but if you can't think of a better reason to circumsize than your own personal convenience, then we're not cutting bits off the baby."

I also informed Red that circumcisions are sometimes botched and result in even worse mutilation, which seemed to grab her attention even if the fact that they are excruciatingly painful when done "properly" didn't. I don't know of the incidence of accidental mutilation, nor do I know of the incidence of reliablility of studies of urinary tract infections in uncircumcized boys. What I DO know is that the risks of circumsicion far outweigh any real or imagined benefits.

I'm worried about this, because I think I'm going to loose the argument for no other reason than Red is too stubborn to change her mind. She claims she read the Laumann article I printed for her. She told me to ask the doctor about it, but that's no help; they'll won't tell you anything about it other than it's your decision. I think I made our doctor uncomfortable when I asked! I lost the battle with my ex to keep her from piercing my daughter's ears when she was a baby. What is it with moms and performing body modification on their babies? Aren't they perfect just the way they are? Is it so damn hard to leave them intact?

There's plenty of other good info at NOCIRC and CIRP.

Obligatory pro-circumcison link. Ugh.